Act Like a Lady
See Act Like a Man
Barrington H.. Brennen,
March 27, 2022
a previous article I shared about the training to act
like a man and the Act-Like-a-Man Box. It is a box we
need to avoid. Similarly, there is an Act-Like-a-Lady
Box, and we do all we can to keep females in this box.
We are taught that women are to take care of men
emotionally, physically and sexually. Paul Kevil
writes: “Many men expect women to be available whenever
they want. Today, there are still some men who when
they think that women are not available, are encouraged
to assert control—to teach, train, or punish them. The
basic message is that women are less important than men.
Yes, we do have many outstanding women as national,
corporate, and church leaders in our society. However,
there are still far too many families, parents, leaders,
and men, who are keeping females in a box, just like
what we are doing with our males in society. There is
still an underlining belief that women are less
important than men. Also, we are trained to pass on
anger towards women by abusing them. Far too many in
society are trained to see women as inferior and expect
women to serve them. Believe it or not, the
Act-Like-a-Lady Box provides the presupposition that
married women cannot be raped by their husbands.
If we ask women to share one word, phrase or demand,
they never want to hear from a man again, what will it
be? Here are a few of them as presented by Paul Kivel
in his book “The Men’s Work Workbook.”
It must be that time of the month.
You are not submissive enough.
What’s for dinner?
Where’s my socks, shirt . . ?
You’re too emotional.
I’m not angry.
That’s your problem.
You’re always nagging.
Let me take care of that for you.
You did that like a man.
Why is this place a mess?
That must be a woman driver.
The baby needs changing.
Can’t you keep those children quiet?
You’d better not make me angry.
I could help you go places in this company.
Lots of other women would love to have this job.
Additionally, women also dislike it when men (if not
their partners) use words and phrases like “girl,”
“honey,” “little lady,” etc.; talk to women’s breast or
make lewd noises on the street. This set the backdrop
to what most men often expect from women. This
expectation keeps women in the Act-Like-a-Lady Box.
Here’s what in the box: Ladies should be polite,
nurturing, emotional submissive, dependent, pretty,
sexy, take care of the house, take care of the children,
be superwomen, put their needs aside, be clean, be
available to men.
Ladies should . . .
Take care of the house
Take care of the children
Put their needs aside
Be available to men.
When men do not get what they want they can use a set of
excuses to immediately blame women. These words can
fuel anger and resentment. Here are a few examples:
“She’s frigid.” “She’s too emotional.” “She knew that
would make me angry.” “She asked for it.” “She said no
but she really meant yes.” “I told her to stop and she
didn’t stop so she deserved it.” “What did she expect?”
If a man is in the Act-Like-a-Man Box, he will certainly
want his female partner to be in the Act-Like-a-Lady
box. That’s a terrible combination. Men, we can do
something to remove women from this box. It is time we
give up control and start sharing power. Women are to
be our equal partners. They are to have equal voice,
vote, authority, access, opportunity, and privileges.
Men, we can make a difference. I like how Paul Keil
puts it: “By changing your expectations and behavior
you can stop being abusive, which will help women you
know get out of the Act-Like-a-Lady Box. Here is what
Paul Kivel says men can do.
When talking to a woman, concentrate on what
she is saying. Notice if you get distracted
by your own thoughts or by her body, or when
you feel impatient. Practice a lot.
Notice how often during the day you are
distracted by thoughts of women’s bodies.
Say to yourself, if a woman says no to sex,
she means no. Notice any old learning that
keeps you from accepting this statement.
·Next time you hear a comment about “women
drivers” or some other putdown for women,
interrupt it. Notice how scary it is to
challenge this kind of male bonding. Notice
if it scares you to do this. Imagine how
dangerous it can be for a woman.
If you live with a woman, make a list of who
does the cooking, shopping, laundry,
diapers, cleaning, and other household
chores. Then ask her to make a similar
list. Compare your lists and talk about the
expectations. What do you expect her to do
because she is a woman?
It is important to note that research shows us that the
happiest couples are those where roles are determined by
talent, skill and not gender. To facilitate this no one
is to be in a box. There is to be no requirement to do
a chore just because you are a male or female.
encourage females not to keep yourself in a box. Take
charge of your life. Believe in yourself as
independent, vibrant, intelligent women. Here are a
few things you can do.
Become an independent, self-actualized woman
before you seriously date. You need not have
completed college or have a big savings to
accomplish this. But you must be in charge of
your life. If you are still depending on mom or
dad to make decisions for you, then you are
keeping yourself in a box and will most likely
find a man who is also in the box. You will be
When you go on your first, second on third date
with a man, be an independent adult on the
date. Do not give him power to be in charge of
the moment by paying for the date, picking you
up or taking you home. If you do not have a
car, let a friend, aunt or parent take you there
and pick you up and you must have your own
money. You must always be in a position to
comfortably say “no” and to leave at your
choosing and be safe. Do not give up your
power to a man.
Do not go on a romantic date with a man alone
until you are confident that he has a respectful
view of women. Date in groups and listen to his
choice of words, watch body movements and
attitudes. If he is insisting that you do
something you are not ready for or uncomfortable
doing, then he will only be using you like a
piece of meat—It tastes good now, but if he
finds a better tasting one, he will leave you.
Do you put yourself in a box.
Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family
therapist. Send your questions to
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 242-327-1980